Feature

Potted Potter

This “gloriously goofy” West End import tells “an abbreviated, ridiculous version” of J.K. Rowling’s saga.

Little Shubert Theatre, New York
(212) 239-6200

**

Potterheads, rejoice, said Daniel M. Gold in The New York Times. Those who are despairing over having no new material about the boy wizard should get enormous pleasure from the antic pace and plentiful inside jokes in this “gloriously goofy” West End import. The show, which began as a five-minute street act in 2005, is performed by onetime BBC children’s show presenters Daniel Clarkson and Jeff Turner. “Using bad wigs and Silly String on a set so cheap it might have been furnished by Craigslist,” the pair tells “an abbreviated, ridiculous version” of J.K. Rowling’s seven-book saga. Turner, the straight man, also plays the title role; Clarkson plays a dimwit who’s clearly never read a word of Harry Potter and constantly confuses the series with The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia. He’s also every other character. Together, the duo casts “the perfect spell” over the audience.

The performance only works for theatergoers under age 9, said David Cote in Time Out New York. Clarkson and Turner certainly “don’t lack for birthday party clown charisma,” and they must have whipped up a powerful spell indeed to be able to cram Rowling’s 4,000-page series into a 90-minute show (“Plotto Summararium!” perhaps? Or maybe it’s “Shrinkum Narrativo!”). But if you go “hoping for a clever or incisive summing-up of the boy-wizard epic,” you’ll likely leave unsatisfied. It’s “more of a stunt than a show,” and despite some lively improv and audience interaction, there’s really nothing to keep the grown-up audience members interested.

I didn’t even see the Potter movies and I still enjoyed it, said Elisabeth Vincentelli in the New York Post. True, the show has “zero satirical bite” and is aimed squarely at kids, many of whom frequently shrieked with laughter around me. But even though I couldn’t keep up with all the inside references, it was hard not to be won over by the “enduring comedy staple of mismatched friends” and the pantomime-style rhythms. The beauty of the Potter books, though, was that Rowling “never talked down to her readers,” said Linda Winer in Newsday. This “infantilizing” show does that in a big way. Some sugar-high toddlers might find this fun, but anyone old enough to have read the books is “already too smart for this.” 

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